The Stampede 66 Progress Report

Stampede 66 has been open for about two months now, and has really developed a bustling energy. I’m frequently told that this is the place to bring out-of town guests.

Under the big sky DSC_0220

Under the big sky

Women's Room Door DSC_0245

Women’s Room Door

Crazy Texas Towns DSC_0241

Crazy Texas Towns

My initial intent was to give diners a sampling of Texas foods cut from a broad cloth. In retrospect, I have come to realize the menu is perhaps too broad and tries to encompass too much. Streamlining the menu a bit will help the kitchen focus more intently on each of the items that remain.

Additionally, some guests have commented that they would like to see a designation between appetizers and main courses, rather than the sharing concept I originally envisioned.  I have had requests to add a steak or two to the menu as well. I want Stampede 66 to offer something for everyone, so I am listening attentively.

Finally, I have given our desserts a bit of an overhaul. In the beginning, I was trying to reflect the sampling of desserts in my family’s truck stop café, for which the restaurant is named (Phillips’s 66). My mother made the pies, cakes and occasional cobbler when peaches were in season.  To keep with tradition, I’ve added a dynamite banana bread pudding, a coconut layer cake and my grandmother’s warm apple spice cake that was on the menu of my first restaurant, Routh Street Café.

I’ve attached the current menu from Stampede 66 for you to peruse.

Menu Page 1

In other news, we have just begun construction on Sky Canyon at the new Love Field terminal, which will be opening in April of this year. Sky Canyon, DFW, will be opening late spring of this year. I’ll keep you posted on progress there.

Sky Canyon Space

Sky Canyon – Love Field Space

Construction

Construction – Love Field

Gina George SPGeorge, Gina & Stephan at Love Field

Mexico, LA Food and Wine and Seafood Sustainability

Much has happened since my last post so I’ll try to catch everyone up on the quick-paced last few weeks. I just returned from Monterey and Carmel where I served on a “Blue Ribbon Task Force” for Seafood Watch, a program from the Monterey Bay Aquarium that promotes seafood sustainability. One of the most refreshing things about the trip was the 50 degree variance in temperatures from Monterey and Dallas. Extremely refreshing!

Jelly Fish, Monterey Bay Aquarium

The previous weekend, I was in LA for Los Angeles Food and Wine. We did our first of two events at the Fairmount Miramar in Santa Monica. Execuchefs Kyle Barham (Stephan Pyles) and Jon Thompson (Samar) were joined by the 2012 Stephan Pyles Culinary Scholarship winner, Gabe Erales, who did a remarkable job and is on his way to greatness (I predict!).  

LAFW Gang

Chefs SP, Kyle, Gabe, Jon

Originally, our dish for this night was to be “Crispy Pork Jowls with Foie Gras Mousse and Mustard Compressed Peaches”. I had forgotten, however, that we were in California where marijuana is (practically) legal and foie gras is, well, not! So the new dish became “Crispy Pork Jowls with “Faux Gras” Mousse and Mustard compressed Peaches”. Let’s just say the guests got a bit of a contraband delicacy they were not expecting. Wink, wink, foie gras police.


Crispy Pork Jowls with “Faux” Gras Mousse and Mustard Compressed Peaches

Saturday afternoon, we were among 16 or so chefs who prepared tastings at LA Live. Our dish, was a big hit this day as well.

The first of 1,400 tasters

Scallops en Escabeche, Red Texas Corn, Chile Chicharon,Huitlacoche Foam

The highlight of my several meals while I was in LA was at Red Medicine, where the kitchen is led by a brilliant young American chef named Jordan Kahn. His food is truly inspired and dinner here was my best of the year. The heirloom rice porridge, which was blended table-side with egg yolk, pistachios and red uni was worth the trip to LA. It reminded me of an enticing and heady dish I’ve had several times in Spain – Bomba rice with foie gras, egg and Manchego, but this version was so good it was addictive.

Heirloom Rice Porridge, Egg Yolk, Hazelnuts, Red Uni

I also ate at Son of a Gun, the new(ish) restaurant by the folks who brought you Animal. Let’s just say I like Animal better.

Week before last, I went to Mexico City for four days where I 1) located an electric nixtamal grinder, 2) purchased 2 tortilla machines – one manual and 1 electric, and  3) ate my weight in tacos and chile-infused dishes of every variety. My good friend and chef from Zihuatenejo, Edgar Navarro, was the most able and experienced tour guide I have ever had. The first place he took us was to meet the brilliant mother and daughter team of Maria Teresa Ramirez Degollado & Carmen “Titita” Ramírez. Maria Teresa is one of the top pastry chefs in Mexico and has a bakery called Sal y Dulce Artensanos that is both cozy and modern. I found out that she worked at my friend Jeremiah Tower’s Stars restaurant in San Francisco in the 1990s under star pastry chef Emily Luchetti. Her desserts were beautifully balanced and she’s on a personal mission to wean Mexico off its sugar dependency.


Rich and uncharacteristically unsweet raspberry cheesecake at Sal y Dulce Artesanos

Chef Edgar Navarro and Maria Teresa Ramirez Degollado at Restaurante El Bajío

Maria Teresa Ramirez Degollado & Carmen “Titita” Ramírez

Titita Ramirez is an internationally recognized expert on Mexican cuisine and runs the popular and iconic El Bajio in the Obroro Popular district.

The marketplaces, as always, were a great sense of inspiration. I have as often been moved by a single new taste sensation or simply perfect ingredient as I have been by the most spectacularly creative dishes in world-renown restaurants.

Ripe Mamay

Chipolines (crispy grass hoppers)

Sweet little Piggies go to Market

Chocolate Clams

A vibrant array of Piquant Salsas

As I tweeted to my followers while I was there, I am determined to bring fresh huitlacoche to Dallas again. Fifteen years ago, I had a source for it and used it regularly on my menus. Gabe, my scholarship recipient, says his chef at La Condesa in Austin uses it so maybe I won’t have to bring it directly from Mexico. Florida and California seem to be the sources but neither with year-round regularity.

Fresh Huitlacoche – the Truffle of Mexico (or my favorite moniker, Corn Smut)

One of my longest and most endearing friendships is with Patricia Quintana, the “Queen of Mexican Cuisine” and her Izote restaurant is still one of the very best in all of Mexico.

Iconic Mexican Chef Patricia Quintana

My favorite dish that evening was a simple but highly flavored avocado tartar with crispy maguey worms (and yes, they were delicious).

 Avocado Tartar, Maguey Worms, Infused Olive Oils

We also made nixtamal that evening using three different dried corns.

Nixtamal is an Aztec word used to describe corn that has been partially cooked and soaked with calcium hydroxide, otherwise referred to as cal or lime. We used “Cal Viva”, a limestone rock that actually made the water bubble and boil simply by combining the two ingredients. The process of nixtamalization was first developed in Mesoamerica where maize was originally cultivated. To my knowledge, there is no precise date for when the technology was developed, but the earliest evidence of nixtamalization is found in Guatemala’s southern coast, with equipment dating from 1200-1500 BC.

Cal Viva

For Sunday brunch, Chef Patricia took us to the almost overwhelming but joyous and festive Arroyo. Its vast rooms seat more than 2,200 avid diners and it houses its own bull fighting ring. I’ve been going to Arroyo for 20 years now and it never ceases to amaze me. The aromas, sights, sounds and flavors are almost enough to overload the senses at times and there is simply no other place in (or outside) Mexico that feels quite like this.

My 3 Chef Amigos – Jon, Patricia and Edgar

Chicharon at Arroyo

Arroyo – choices, choices!

In my next post, I’ll share my experiences at three more influential and trend-setting restaurants while in Mexico: Quintonil and Pujol in Mexico City and Amaranta in Toluca.

Also, I’m headed to Spain next week to see old friends, dine (very) well and participate in La Tomatina 2012.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Stampede 66 is moving ahead at a very quick pace.

Stars, Moon and Trees

Iron-Sculpted Horses bursting through the Wall

Much more on Stampede 66 next post as well.

Spicy Cooking and Happy Eating!

Content provided in part by New Digital Strategies.

The Roses of San Antone

The Yellow Rose of Texas

It’s been an interesting 7 days in the “Stephan Pyles World”.

John and I were deeply immersed in menu development for Stampede 66 last week when I remembered I had to host a press dinner at Sustenio on Saturday evening in San Antonio. Sustenio is a consultation/license agreement I have at the beautiful Eilan Hotel in San Antonio’s La Cantera.

I flew down for the day with my executive chef from Sky Canyon–DFW, Mariano Fernandez. Mariano is from Valencia, Spain and makes some of the best Paella on the planet!

Mariano and his world-class paella

The dinner, which took place at this stunning communal table, was a big hit with journalists from Houston, New York and Austin.

Communal Table at Sustenio

Chef Jon Thompson and I are heading to Mexico City tomorrow where we will visit my dear friend Chef Patricia Quintana, eat our weight in tacos and buy an electric tortilla machine. Stay tuned for great coverage of that trip – and more – next week!

Content provided in part by New Digital Strategies.

(edited: February 11, 2013 at 10:46am)

From Big Spring to the Big D

Welcome back to the ongoing documentation of Stampede 66.

First off, we received a comment on our last post: “How did you come up with the name Stampede 66?”

Great question. The number 66 comes from my family’s restaurant that I grew up in, The Big Spring-Phillips 66 Truck Stop Café. It was on the old Highway 80 that ran through every little town in West Texas before Interstate 20 bypassed them all, drying up much of the local economies. I can still hear Tammy Wynette and Faron Young wailing from the jukebox, and envision the sweet, southern-accented waitresses with beehive hair-dos who called me “Mr. Stevie.”

“The Stampede” is a famous West Texas dance hall in Big Spring that was opened in 1954 by the legendary country western musician, Hoyle Nix, and is still going strong some 58 years later! “Hoyle Nix and his West Texas Cowboys” played for decades at the Stampede until his son, Jody, took over the reins. Hoyle’s song, “A Big Ball in Cowtown”, is still played on radio stations across the nation and has been recorded by Bob Wills, George Strait and Asleep at the Wheel. We are currently planning to have “Jody Nix and the Texas Cowboys” play at the grand opening in early October. Dust off your swing- dancing Luccheses!

And to fully incorporate the stampede theme, I’ve designed longhorns, in stampeding motion, to be suspended over the bar. OK, and yes, I hope the place is “stampeded” by folks wanting good Texas food and drink.

Many of you will remember Star Canyon, my popular Texas-themed restaurant in the 1990s. While Star Canyon is the inspiration for Stampede 66, it will by no means be a simple replication of that concept. Much has changed in the ensuing years – lighting, technology and cooking equipment and styles.

This area will house a picnic-style seating area under a wood-clad shed with a reclaimed corrugated sheet metal roof. Looking out from there, you see three rectangular openings that will house TV monitors above horse-shoe shaped banquettes. From all appearances, you will be peering out windows as you watch wild horses running by from pane to pane.

This area will be the Margarita & Taco Bar, which will produce several takes on the classic margarita, including my original from Star Canyon, the Cactus Pear Margarita. Expect the unexpected – a hot and cold margarita – the base frozen with liquid nitrogen and topped with warm passion fruit “bubbles”. These tequila marvels will be the perfect accompaniments to our tacos which will be composed from house-made nixtamal.

[First day of construction with Granite Properties, Duncan-Miller Design and Southlake Construction]

Stay tuned!

(edited: February 11, 2013 at 10:53am)

Content provided in part by New Digital Strategies.

Photography by Brilliant Pixel Photography.

 

Introducing Stampede 66

Hello everyone and welcome to the official blog of Chef Stephan Pyles. Here you will find insider information, photos, news, updates and the general comings and goings of Chef Pyles.

As some of you know, our newest concept, Stampede 66, is scheduled to open in early October. Think modern Texas with a casual, creative and high-energy ambience. The menu will consist entirely of familiar Texas dishes but each will be re-interpreted with a contemporary twist.

We have selected our executive chef and it was a natural choice. Our current execu-chef at Samar, Jon Thompson, will make the transition from cardamom and curry to chiles and chicharon. The kitchen will serve as much Texas-sourced product as possible and my years of research into Texas culinary history will be fully utilized. We have already begun the sourcing of wild native products such as Agarita Berries, Turksap and Red Mulberry. We will be using seafood exclusively from the Texas Gulf Coast and poultry such as dove, quail and wild turkey, will all come from Texas farms or the wild.

Construction is under way, and the kitchen, bathrooms and screened porch are now being framed.

This ceiling structure will represent a warm, summer Texas night sky. As the classic song goes: the stars at night are big and bright – deep in the heart of Texas! Imagine the full moon scattering its beams through the trees as you dine on honey-fried chicken or the best bowl of chicken and dumplings you’ve ever had.

Stampede 66 is all in the details. Take a look at the framing of this bathroom, for example.

If you think back to Star Canyon, you may remember the branded tiles on the ceiling. At Stampede 66, we will brand tiles on the wall by the bathrooms. Each tile will contain the unusual name of a city in Texas, and yes, there are some “doozies”. Ever heard of Mobeetie, Poteet or Looneyville? Certain cities just have to automatically be placed together, such as Needmore and Cash. Wait until you see some of the other combinations…you might just forget you had to go to the bathroom.

Stay tuned for next week’s post.

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